Leading wool suppliers such as Australia began marketing organic wool to counter a decades-long decline in the world wool market. Given the challenge of adopting certified organic practices for wool production in certain parts of the world including the United States, consumer demand for organic wool products relative to alternative production attributes is assessed to explore the feasibility of certifying these attributes. An Internet survey found that most US consumers preferred wool to acrylic; distinguished wool products by origin; valued organic certification less than combined environmental sustainability and animal welfare claims; and lowered their valuation for wool products in response to the information provided on wool attributes.
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These labels may imply a few things such as the following: Organic farming and manufacturing practices limit the use of synthetic substances to those approved by the National Organic Standards. Besides the organic standards, there are other ways to produce wool that can be considered pro-environment. Producers who find it challenging to adhere to the organic standards can adopt less stringent production practices and still claim that their products are pro-environment. When people who raise sheep organically treat the sheep for worms using antiparasite drugs, the wool from the sheep is no longer considered organic under current standards. Since worms are common, this makes it difficult to produce organic wool. Some people believe that failing to give the sheep the most effective treatment for worms is cruel to the sheep. These labels may also imply the following: Country of origin tells us where the fiber production is taking place. If an organic or pro-environment production process is being used, the country of origin tells us which environment is directly benefiting from such production practices. Moreover, some people are concerned about the environmental impact of transporting products over long distances. Producers who make a commitment not to kill the native predators, such as wolves or bears that might threaten their livestock can label their products as certified predator friendly. Predator friendly growers reduce the risks of livestock losses by using guard animals such as llamas, dogs, and burros and by using pasture-management strategies to minimize confrontations between their animals and predators. Mulesing is an important part of sheep husbandry in Australia, where the skin around the backside is surgically removed to prevent fly strike caused by Australian blowfly. The process of mulesing has been reported to mutilate many sheep by trussing the animals upside down and carving large pieces of flesh from their rumps without any pain-relief medication. The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Texas State University-San Marcos one-time research funds were used to fund the online survey.
- animal welfare
- consumer behavior